Lot 132
  • 132

Louise Bourgeois

200,000 - 300,000 GBP
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  • Louise Bourgeois
  • Give or Take
  • stamped with the artist's initials, dated 02 and numbered 1/6 on the underside
  • bronze with silver nitrate patina
  • 9 by 58.5 by 13cm.; 3 1/2 by 23 by 5 1/8 in.
  • Executed in 2002, this work is number 1 from an edition of 6, plus 1 artist's proof.


Private Collection, Europe


Cologne, Galerie Karsten Greve, Louise Bourgeois, 2003 (another example from the edition exhibited)
London, Tate Modern; Paris, Centre Pompidou; New York; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum; Los Angeles, The Museum of Contemporary Art; Washington D.C., The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Louise Bourgeois, 2007-09, p. 63, illustrated in colour (another example from the edition exhibited)
Naples, Museo Nazionale di Capodimonte, Louise Bourgeois for Capodimonte, 2008-09, pp. 118-19, illustrated in colour (another example from the edition exhibited)
Aspen, Aspen Art Museum, Disembodied, 2010, pp. 13 and 15 (detail) and p. 17, illustrated in colour (another example from the edition exhibited)
Bogotá, Museo de Arte del Banco de la República, Habeas Corpus, 2010 , pp. 142-43, illustrated in colour (another example from the edition exhibited)
Vienna, Kunsthalle Wien, Le Surrealisme, C’est Moi! Homage to Salvador Dali, 2011, p. 80, illustrated in colour (another example from the edition exhibited)
São Paulo, Instituto Tomie Ohtake; Rio de Janeiro, Museu de Arte Moderna, Louise Bourgeois: The Return of the Forbidden Desire, 2011, p. 262, no. 82, illustrated in colour (another example from the edition exhibited)
Madrid, La Casa Encendida, Louise Bourgeois: Honni Soit Qui Mal Y Pense, 2012-13, p. 83, no. 20, illustrated in colour (another example from the edition exhibited)
Mexico City, Museo del Palacio de Bellas Artes, Louise Bourgeois: Petite Maman, 2013-14, n.p., no. 45, illustrated in colour (another example from the edition exhibited)
Edinburgh, Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art; Middlesbrough, Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art; Southampton, Southampton City Art Gallery, Artist Rooms: Louise Bourgeois, A Woman Without Secrets, 2013-2015, n.p., no. 13, illustrated in colour (another example from the edition exhibited)


Colour: The colours in the catalogue illustration are fairly accurate, although the overall tonality is slightly brighter in the original. Condition: This work is in very good condition. Extremely close inspection reveals a few very faint spots of burnishing on the underside, which are consistent with past installation of the work.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

In 1980, a 69-year old Louise Bourgeois met Jerry Gorovoy; then a budding curator at the Max Hutchinson Gallery in Soho, New York. Furious because she didn’t like how he had installed her sculpture C.O.Y.O.T.E. in his show "Ten Abstract Sculptures", she threatened to pull the piece out of the exhibition. In an effort to appease the outraged artist, Gorovoy invited her for a coffee, and once the exhibition ended – with Bourgeois’ work having remained in it – the artist invited him to visit her at her home in Chelsea. That visit marked the starting point of Gorovoy’s extraordinary relationship with the artist; where he not only became her assistant, but also her manager, friend and confidante. Executed in 2002, over twenty years after Bourgeois and Gorovoy met; and cast from her assistant’s hands and arms, Give or Take is an outstanding example of Bourgeois’ late work, and powerfully manifests the artist’s own complex psyche, which was a source of inspiration throughout her career.

Cast in bronze, Give or Take perfectly embodies the realm of ambiguity that permeates Bourgeois’ oeuvre. In the present work, two hands join together at the forearm; one open and the other closed. In their opposing disposition, both extremities suggest perhaps Bourgeois’ own ambiguous attitude towards friendship - or, in fact, any intimate relationship - and her persistent preoccupation with the complexities of human nature, often with contradictory results. Here, the artist’s choice of a hard and cold material such as bronze to render her assistant’s arms contrasts starkly with the precise and delicate execution of the work, which is imbued with an aura of fragility. In Give or Take Bourgeois poignantly comments on the dual nature of friendship, and arguably about her own attachment to - and dependence on - her assistant and closest friend, who would not only help her at the studio for over thirty years, but would also aid her through bouts of anxiety, self-denial and fear. Indeed, speaking of Gorovoy Bourgeois declared how “When you are at the bottom of the well, you look around and you say, who is going to get me out? In this case, Jerry comes and he presents a rope, and I hook myself on the rope and he pulls me out” (Louise Bourgeois quoted in: Exh. Cat., London, Tate Gallery (and travelling), Louise Bourgeois, 2007-09, p. 150).

Limbs and bodily parts appear constantly throughout Bourgeois’ career, with varied meanings and in a wide range of materials. From her early wooden Personnages of the 1940s to the soft, stuffed-fabric Couples of the 2000s, Bourgeois engaged with the human figure to explore different aspects of its character, revealing its vulnerabilities, the visceral and the sensual. As with other subjects, the motif of hands appears repeatedly in Bourgeois’ work; in Nature Study from 1986 a hand gently holds the figure of a falling woman whose hair tangles around it, which for the artist was a means to express her desire to control psychological disorder. A decade later Bourgeois would create The Welcoming Hands where she cast her own hands holding those of her assistant, and another ten years later the suite 10am Is When You Come To Me in which forty sheets of paper present thirty-eight “portraits” of her hands and Gorovoy’s. Thus in its cold appearance yet tender true essence, Give or Take is part of an utterly intimate body of work that explores one of Bourgeois’ most important personal ties, a remarkable example of her ability to render her innermost feelings and preoccupations in three-dimensional form.